How to Restring a Guitar

If you are a beginner in the guitar realm, restringing a guitar might seem very difficult or challenging to you. Even many skilled and experienced guitar players prefer to restring their guitars by professionals because of the fear that something might go wrong if they do it by themselves. If yes, you have come to the right place. Read this article on How to Restring a Guitar.

Restringing a guitar by a professional requires a lot of money. And if you learn to do it yourself, you could save a lot of money. 

Restringing a guitar is not that hard. Apparently, it's quite easy compared to other stringed instruments such as piano which strictly requires a professional to get it restringed.

Either you have an electric or acoustic guitar, you can tune it easily by following some easy steps that we have found by conducting intense research and we are going to discuss it further in this article through a step-by-step approach.

Why do you need to restring your guitar?

How to Restring a Guitar

Photo by: Utsav Srestha

Every stringed instrument needs to get restringed at a stage whether it’s a guitar, violin, or piano. If you are a guitar player and you haven’t broken a single string, you are doing something wrong. String-breaking incidents are very common that guitar players face in their day-to-day life, especially the thin high E or B strings. Strings can break from time to time because of many reasons.

Either you like to shred like Steve Vai or bend like David Gilmour, breaking strings every day is quite possible even if you use stronger strings. In this case, going to guitar shops every day to restring a single or strings is not convenient at all.

Even if you are not much of a heavy player, strings might break while tuning or even for being worn off. Strings can get rusty and stained after using them for a long time and even for maintenance purposes, you will need to restring your guitar. So knowing how to restring a guitar is essential for every guitar player and it will save a lot of money as well. 

How to Restring a Guitar: Pick the right set of strings 

First things first, if you want to get rid of your old worn-off strings, you need to get a decent set of strings as a replacement and restring of course. So picking the right string is very important.

There are a wide variety of strings available in the market of different brand and gauges. If you are on a tight and low budget, you can always opt for the cheaper options but cheaper strings are not recommended as they are not good for tonality and they get stained very easily.

There are premium string brands such as D’addario Elixir and Ernie Ball that you can check out. Though these strings are more on the expensive side, they are superior in terms of tonality and build quality. They even provide a better feeling when playing. So spending a bit more on better strings is totally worth it. 

And about picking the right string gauge, it’s all about how thick you prefer your strings to be. If you do a lot of bending, pick thinner strings or strings with lower gauges such as .9 gauges. Thinner strings produce melodious sounds compared to thicker strings but they can break easily as well.

Thinner strings are great for recording and they stay in tune as well. On the other hand, if you like heavy sound, thicker strings such as .11 gauge or above are a better option for you.

Thicker strings don’t break easily but the downside of thicker strings is that they don’t stay in tune for a longer time compared to thinner strings and you will need to tune it very often. 

How to Restring a Guitar: Essential Tools that you need for restringing

Restringing tools are not absolutely necessary; you can restring your guitar without the help of any restringing tools. But using restringing tools will make the restringing process much easier and faster.

Chances are you have some of these tools lying around your home. And these tools are not necessarily expensive. They are quite cheap and you can source them easily through preferably any music instrument store or from Amazon. These tools are:

  1. Headstock stand 
  2. Wirecutter 
  3. String winder
  4. Lemon oil 
  5. Tuner 
  6. Cleaning cloth 
  7. Spray cleaner

Now we are going to walk you through a step-by-step guitar restringing tutorial with and without the abovementioned tools that you can comprehend and follow easily:

Step 1: Remove the old strings

You need to get rid of the old strings to get started. For that, place the headstock of your guitar on the headstock stand and detune the strings with the string winder to loosen the tension of the strings.

You can do this with your hand as well. You will understand that the strings have loosened enough when it stops producing pitch and you will be able to pull them easily towards you.

After the strings have loosened, cut it with a wire cutter and pull both the split ends, get it out and dump it in the bin. If you don’t have a wire cutter, pull out one end of the string from the tuners and the other end from the bridge and you are good to go.

Step 2: Clean the guitar

Guitars require maintenance as they can get dirty from time to time. Cleaning the guitar will make it look very decent and make the playing experience much better. Most importantly, it is the best time to clean a guitar when all of the strings are removed because you will get unfettered access to the fretboard. 

Use the spray cleaner or any guitar cleaning agent to clean the body and get the dust removed. It will give the guitar a polished look as well. Use a cleaning cloth and rub it on the guitar body with it for a better result. 

Fretboards require extra care because the tonality of a guitar depends on it. A dirty and dry fretboard can make a guitar sound really crappy. Unfinished fretboards such as maple, rosewood, or ebony require oil-based fretboard conditioner also known as lemon oil.

Put a few drops of lemon oil on a cleaning cloth and distribute it evenly on the fretboard and make sure that the fretboard absorbs it. On the other hand, finished fretboards require polish. 

Step 3: Install the new strings

After you have followed the abovementioned steps, your guitar is now ready to rock new strings. Unpack the strings and follow the instructions to understand the order of the strings. There can be color indicators or numbers or both to mention the order of the strings.

If you get confused by that instruction, know that the first string (Higher E) starts from down and proceed towards up and the order (1-6) is Higher E, B, D, G, A, Lower E. The bigger the number is, the thicker the string gets making the 1st string the thinnest and the 6th string thickest. This will make it easy for you to identify each string. 

Identify the strings one by one and put them through the corresponding bridge, align with the nut slot and pull them all the way, and insert them into the specific tuner. After you have inserted the string into the tuner, tighten it firmly with the string winder but make sure that it’s not too tight.

Make it enough tight that the ball end is secured with the bridge. After you have applied this to all the strings, cut the excess string from the headstock end because it does not look good at all and it can make the headstock unnecessarily heavy. 

Be careful while handling the strings because the non-ball ends of the strings can be quite sharp and it can cause anything unpleasant anytime. 

Step 5: Stretch and tune

After getting rid of the old string, the body of the guitar gets relieved of the tension. After applying new strings, a guitar takes time to adjust to the new tension cause by the new set of strings and it can get detuned very easily.

One way to reduce the adapting time of the guitar is to stretch the strings at a motion so that the tension gets evenly distributed to the body of the guitar and the stings as well. This will make the pitch stable as well. 

After performing the stretching, your guitar is ready to get tuned. Tuning is very easy and you need a tuner for it. Though you can tune your guitar without a tuner you will need ‘perfect pitch’ for it and the chances are very low cause it’s a very rare ability. So a tuner is the best deal.

If you don’t have a physical tuner, you can always download a free tuner app on your smartphone and it gets the job done. After you are done with tuning, you are done with the restringing process and enjoy the fresh tune of your guitar.

You might need to tune the guitar very often the first couple of days after installing a new set of strings. But after that, the tuning will eventually get stable.

Final Words

Though restringing a guitar is a matter of effort and patience, it can be quite fun and a whole new experience. After you do it a couple of times, it will get easier and you will be able to do it even faster. 

You can also check: Best Nylon Strings Guitar

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